Political Alert Engine Blog

A Blog About Political Prediction Markets

With the January 2020 debate coming up, Andrew Yang has 1 qualifying poll and Tom Steyer has 2 as of Monday morning (December 23rd). Currently only Yang (29% odds) and Steyer (17% odds) have double-digit odds of qualifying for the January debate based on PredictIt data.


Polling Slows Down A Lot During The Holidays

As Nate Silver has tweeted, polling does slow down a lot during the holidays.

During the 2016 cycle, NO national or early state (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina) polls were conducted between Christmas and New Years for either Republicans or Democrats. Below I've graphed what polls were conducted by similar pollsters at this time in the 2016 primaries based on RealClearPolitics 2016 state and national polls. Note that the chart below is based on when the poll was in the field. Polls may be released a few days after pollsters have finished surveying.

Barring a surprise release on Monday Dec. 23rd, it's quite likely there will be NO qualifying early state polls during the month of December.


What we know

As the Debate Tracker has noted, Monmouth plans to release one qualifying poll but we don't know whether it will be state or national.  

If Yang Qualifies, It Will Likely Come Down to the Wire. If Not, Yang May Get a B.

With the debate scheduled for Tuesday January 14th in Des Monies and Friday January 10th, it could well come down to the wire as polls conducted during the first week of January will be released.

When asked about the debate thresholds in September, Yang told Politico, “I’m Asian, so I love tests.” He added that the DNC’s rules have been “incredibly helpful” to him because he knows how many donors — and what polling numbers — he needs to aim for.

Indeed, Yang has got a 100% on the debate test so far with a 6 out of 6 attendance record. If he fails to make it, his grade would drop to a 86% (6 out of 7) because MATH.


PredictIt Data

Here's a dashboard I created, where you can track the odds of a specific candidate making the debate:


Given the polling drought and the potential for polls to come in the last minute, I expect this market to be a wild ride for Yang, Steyer, and (possibly) Gabbard. To qualify, a candidate needs four polls at 5%+ or two early-state polls at 7%+. Here are the polling averages based on 538:

If you're Yang or Gabbard, you definitely want New Hampshire polls to be released. If you're Steyer, you definitely want state polls to be released – preferably South Carolina or Nevada.


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Since dropping out of the race last Tuesday, many commentators have suggested that Kamala Harris would be a great running mate. I disagree and think having her on the ticket would decrease the odds of Democrats winning in November.

Here’s why I don’t think she would make a good VP

I just don’t think there is much room for a not quite moderate, not quite progressive black candidate who in a primary demonstrated little appeal to black voters.


Say Biden Gets The Nomination

If Biden is the nominee, I expect he will do well with black voters in the general regardless of the nominee. After all, black voters are overwhelmingly supporting him in the primary. For aesthetic reasons he does need a woman and/or a person of color. In the general election, I believe his weakness will be generating high turnout among progressive and young voters. I believe the best nominee in this case will be Elizabeth Warren or Andrew Yang. Yang is friendly with Biden and Yang’s outsider ideas would complement Biden's status-quo establishment vibe. In addition both Warren and Yang are good at generating small dollar fundraising, something Biden has struggled with.  

Say Sanders Gets The Nomination

If Sanders is the nominee, a “centrist independent” candidate such as Howard Schultz or Michael Bloomberg will likely arise as a third-party option. Thus, Sanders should go with Nina Turner or Tulsi Gabbard to double-down on his progressive/anti-establishment message.  

Elizabeth Warren

If Warren is the nominee, I suspect her weakness would be with men, swing voters, and perhaps moderates in a general election. In that case, some good choices include Cory Booker and Andrew Yang. On a 538 podcast, Nate Silver said Julián Castro “feels like Warren's single most likely VP pick” though I think Booker or Yang would be stronger running mates.  

Pete Buttigieg

If Buttigieg is the nominee, his weaknesses include weak black turnout and weak turnout from progressives in a general election. Given Harris's struggles with black voters and skepticism from progressives, in this scenario, Stacey Abrams is a better running mate.


Democrats Shouldn’t Make The Same Mistake as in 2016

I believe an under-explored reason for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 was picking Tim Kaine. Following the unexpected success of Sanders with progressives, Hillary Clinton chose a boring, corporate candidate in Tim Kaine. It's hard to imagine how the inclusion of Tim Kaine won over new voters or increased turn-out for Democrats.


Prediction Markets Currently Have Harris a Closed Second to Abrams for Running Mate

As of this writing, PredictIt is giving Abrams a 13% chance and Harris a 12% chance of being the nominee.



Kamala was often described as the Marco Rubio of the 2020 race and as 538 has noted, a “Rubioesque” candidate is a candidate that is everyone's second choice. Indeed, as a pick for running mate, I don't think Harris should be anyone's first pick.

In the Washington Examiner, Tiana Rowe writes that no one will pick Harris as a running mate. If Democrats want to win, they better hope she is right.

    Comment and follow me on Twitter here.   Track the latest odds at Political Alert Engine.

Andrew Yang Deserves More Credit for His Branding Skills

Let's start with the MATH hats. The blue MATH (Make America Think Harder) are a nice contrast to the Donald Trump red MAGA hats. The MATH backronym appeals to nerdy voters. The hats are also good branding for supporters online (such as for use on Twitter handles).

The MATH hats have one additional advantage. If they are bought on his website, they count as a campaign contribution and the number of unique contributors is one of the metrics used for debate qualification.


Renaming U.B.I. “The Freedom Dividend”

Andrew Yang's signature proposal of giving $1,000 per month to every adult is known as universal basic income (UBI). UBI is a wonky name and Yang realized that the term “Freedom Dividend” polled better so he calls it that.


He's Good at Drawing Contrasts With Trump

Like the blue hats, he's fond of saying “the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian guy who likes math.” Even his “Humanity First” slogan contrasts with “America First”


YangGang Continues to Grow

Andrew Yang is certainly a differentiated candidate with unique policy proposals. There are many factors to a good campaign but his good marketing has helped him outlast several governors and senators who have much more political experience.


Visit Political Alert Engine for the latest Andrew Yang odds.

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With the upcoming debate and Buttigieg's surge in the early states, expect attention on his lack of traction with non-white votes. I've compiled recent polls that show Buttigieg's support by race.

Here are the national polls:

And here are some recent state polls:

Polling data can be found on 538.

Since the beginning of October, Buttigieg's odds on PredictIt of winning the nomination (orange line) have increased and he now has ~20% chance of winning (vs. 7-10% at the beginning of October). Live Chart Here

Visit Political Alert Engine for the latest odds.

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If Sanders Can Improve with Older Voters, He Can Win

Much of the commentary around Bernie Sanders' viability stresses the gender gap in his support (e.g. the “Bernie Bro” narrative) or his lack of popularity among affluent college-educated voters.

However, the biggest problem (and opportunity) for Bernie Sanders I believe is his inability to win over large numbers of older voters. Keep in mind that older voters tend to be more reliable voters.

Take the latest Economist/YouGov national poll, Bernie Sanders has a very respectable level of total support at 17%. Sanders shines with younger voters with 34% from ages 18-29 but among voters aged 65+, he is the first choice for only 3%.

Here is a break-down of various recent polls. Note that different pollsters use different age ranges.

Bernie Sanders Support By Age – National Polls

Looking at the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, a similar picture emerges

Bernie Sanders Support By Age – Iowa and New Hampshire

Bernie Sanders Support By Age – Other States

Additional States – NY Times Siena Polling, Sanders Support by Age

To be sure, Bernie Sanders has made efforts to reach older voters, but time will tell if ad efforts aimed at gaining traction with older voters will succeed.

The good news for Sanders is that according to the Wall Street Journal, he got 26.5% of voters age 65 and older in the 2016 primary, suggesting he has room to improve from the single-digit support he has now.

Bernie Sanders has actually made in-roads with non-white voters. For example, the recent Fox News Nevada poll has Bernie Sanders at 31% with Hispanics.

The key to Bernie Sanders' victory may be convincing more people who look like him to vote for him.

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Thiel on Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker

You may not like his politics or his contrarian thinking but you got to give credit to Peter Thiel's prescient comments about the 2020 Democratic Primary race. Here's what he said in September 2018 (over a year ago) on the Rubin Report

The revisionist history people like to now say is that Hillary Clinton was this terrible candidate. And no, I think she was the best candidate the establishment could put up. It was just that the ideas were wrong – they didn't make sense.

Hillary Clinton thinks she should run again in 2020 and in a way she is right. From her point of view, I can understand why she thinks that. She is smarter than the other Democrats. She has more experience and within the zombie establishment, it still makes sense for it to be Hillary than someone like Cory Booker or Kamala Harris.

Later on, Thiel was talking about Gen. X vs. Boomers and the conversation dipped back into the 2020 landscape (at the 1:18:30 YouTube mark)

On a political level, it's striking how under-represented we [Gen. X] are. 2020 should be a prime year for a Gen. X presidential candidate on the Democratic side (someone born between 1965 and 1980). I challenge you to name me a single plausible Gen. X Democratic candidate...and don't pick a loser like Cory Booker.

Indeed, as of this writing, per PredictIt, Hillary Clinton's odds of entering the race are roughly 20% and her chance of winning the nomination are in the 7-10% range (see graph here. In contrast, Booker and Harris are currently in the 1-5% range of winning the nomination. In the Real Clear Politics polling average, Harris is currently less than 5% and Booker less than 2%.


Pundits on Both the Left and Right Were Bullish on Kamala Harris

  • John Fund in Fox News Kamala Harris is the brand-new 2020 Democratic Party frontrunner dated: January 21, 2019
  • The Washington Examiner noted Rachel Maddow sings Kamala Harris' praises: 'A good chance' of winning the 2020 Democratic nomination dated: January 23, 2019
  • Unz Review's Audacious Epigone bullish on Harris's 2020 chances in a December 5, 2018 post. A previous post indicated a prediction Harris would be the nominee.


Regarding Biden and Hillary, the Tables Have Turned

One final thought, in 2015, Biden was thinking about entering the race but according to Nate Cohn's New York Times piece, Clinton was his biggest obstacle. Cohn writes “Clinton has done one thing really well: dissuade mainstream opponents by dominating the invisible primary, the behind-the-scenes competition for elite support that often decides the nomination.”

Now in October 2019, from the New York Times: “While Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bloomberg have both been encouraged to enter the race, Democrats close to them believe the only scenario under which they’d consider running is if Mr. Biden drops out or is badly weakened.”


Chart of Hillary Clinton's Odds of Entering and Winning the 2020 Democratic Primary

Live chart/dashboard: https://www.politicalalertengine.com/analytics/market-overview/hillary-clinton-dashboard

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During a 538 chat earlier in September, Nate Silver made the following observation:

I’m probably the most bullish on Yang of any of the election-analyst-types, and I think that price [at 11 cents] is kind of insane and a discredit to PredictIt tbh.

As of this writing (Sunday 9/29 afternoon), Andrew Yang is at 10 cents, tied with Sanders and ahead of Buttigieg and Harris.

Interestingly, compared to any of the other candidates trading at 5 cents or higher, Yang does not have a state market that trades at the same or higher level. For example, Warren consistently trades higher in IA, NH, and MA. Biden and Sanders do the same in SC and NH respectively. Buttigieg trades at that same or higher in Iowa versus the Nomination and Harris does relatively better in SC.

It's hard to imagine a scenario in which Andrew Yang has a better shot of winning the nomination than any of the early states.

Here are Andrew Yang's numbers

And here's the entire market ( Click here for a current table)

Happy Trading!

Link for additional resources for Yang: > Yang's Candidate Dashboard > Table for 2020 Dem Nomination Overview

To qualify for the October Democratic debate, candidates must have 130,000 donors and get 2% or more in four qualifying polls from a select list of pollsters by October 1st. Also, two polls from the same pollster cannot count unless they cover a different geography. So far 10 candidates have qualified (Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders, Warren, and Yang). Three candidates have hit the 130,000 donors but need more polls. Tom Steyer, Tulsi Gabbard, and Marianne Williamson need 1, 2, and 3 more polls respectively.

So far prediction markets are indicating Tom Steyer is likely to make it at 81% (81¢), Tulsi Gabbard is a toss-up at 48%, and Marianne Williamson is unlikely to make it (6%). Everyone else is at 2% or less.

Click here to get the most recent chart. On the chart below, Steyer is the purple line, Gabbard the orange line, and Williamson the lime line.

Candidate Dashboard

Following the first debate, Kamala Harris's chances of winning the nomination on PredictIt rose following the first Democratic debate at the end of June. Her chances then flattened for most of July. After the second debate on July 31st, her performance was viewed unfavorably and her chances fell.

In the chart below, her odds of winning the South Carolina primary is in purple and the nomination overall is in orange. Both are 13 cents as of this writing (8/21 ~9pm CT)

Source: PredictIt, PoliticalAlertEngine.com view chart

Interestingly, up until recently, her South Carolina odds (the purple line) traded at a premium relative to her nomination odds (the orange line). During June (since June 8th, the earliest data we have available), her South Carolina odds were on average 156% (or 1.56x) her nomination odds . In July, this number was 127%. In August thus far, 112% has been normal. At the time of this writing, they are at parity.

Perhaps the best way to go long Kamala Harris is to do so with SC shares.

Disclosure: I do not own shares in either of these two Kamala Harris markets.